Our moral obligations

Date Published: 01/04/2008

Now that we’ve entered the year 2008, we should also take some time to reflect on our community’s experiences of the previous year and, as a community, examine our morality and moral obligations to our fellow man, and to society at large.

One of the most troubling events to strike our community this past year has been the ongoing scandal concerning the alleged activities of Nicholas Katinas, the now-defrocked former parish priest of Holy Trinity Church in Dallas. Mr. Katinas has been accused of sexual misconduct with minors, and a major lawsuit has been launched against his former parish, the Metropolis of Denver, the Archdiocese and Mr. Katinas personally.

There is no need to regurgitate the specifics, as stated in the lawsuit, in this space. We anticipate that the lawsuit will generate even more news in the coming weeks and months, and as the news presents itself, we will responsibly provide the necessary background information along the way.

But it is important to point out how this scandal has affected, and continues to impact, the moral fiber of our community, which looks to the Church for spiritual guidance.

The Archbishop and Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver refused to castigate Mr. Katinas and send him before a spiritual court. They actually wanted him to remain a priest. A number of Mr. Katinas’ friends, some of whom are still priests, also “stood by” their friend.

Not one of them uttered a single word about the victims. They all behaved as if Mr. Katinas, the alleged perpetrator, was the victim. But expressing sweeping sympathy for victims of sexual abuse in general could never be a bad thing, could it?

Some of these people have high profile positions in the Archdiocese. Father Nicholas Triantafilou, for example, is president of Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the institution which serves as the training ground for our future priests.

The lawsuit now alleges that Father Triantafilou, who was then serving as chancellor of the Archdiocese at the time, personally met with one of the victims and took notes on the alleged victim’s case, but that he “covered up” complaints against Mr. Katinas which had been brought to his attention.

It’s certainly conceivable that Father Triantafilou is being advised not to say anything publicly due to potential legal ramifications, but we have to wonder: Why hasn’t he at least issued a barebones statement denying such allegations outright? If the truth is on his side, simply rejecting the allegations couldn’t hurt, could it?

Why hasn’t the Archdiocese done the same?

“We are so very sorry if anyone has been hurt by a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. If the allegations are true, we fully intend to deal with the person or persons who caused such terrible harm to innocent victims. Please allow us time to investigate the matter thoroughly, so that we may properly deal with it. And please be assured that there is absolutely no tolerance for clergy sex abuse in our Church.”

Would something like that really be so tough to say, just to put people’s minds and hearts at ease?

Since last February, however, no such words have come forth from the mouths of those who openly proclaimed their friendship with the accused. They went on the counterattack, instead. Metropolitan Isaiah even went as far as to say, “Your children and your grandchildren who saw the news on television or read the newspapers” are the real victims.

And that aptly describes the sad state of affairs in which our Church now finds itself. To think that our Church leadership, those bishops and priests who are preaching the gospel, has the nerve to bristle because their friend is being accused not by one, but by four alleged victims, is more than just curious. It’s downright deplorable.

In the face of such odds, they should be taking a much softer, more sensitive and flexible approach.

How can our community otherwise look to the defiantly defensive for moral leadership and spiritual guidance?

Our moral obligation, therefore, is to demand that those who are warning the flock of God against reading newspapers; who fail to offer some measure of comfort to the alleged victims and their families, and therefore to the rest of us; who refuse to abide by canonical procedure and do the responsible thing, like sending an accused priest before spiritual court, step away from their positions of leadership and repent.

Unless they remove themselves and repent, they can neither help lead us down the path of salvation, nor help produce future priests without corrupting them, because they are incapable of providing sound spiritual guidance. And they can not provide sound spiritual guidance because their moral example is tarnished.

The end result has been disastrous. People who claim they were victims of abuse are leaving the Church, and looming lawsuits demanding millions stand to bankrupt the Archdiocese.